Growing up, I would always get so excited and happy when my teachers had books, images, or anything that featured someone who looked like me. I am half African American, a quarter Caucasian, and a quarter Filipina; I have what I would call caramel skin and curly dark brown hair. When I felt represented and seen through resources my teachers had, my interest in whatever it was would peak a little more. The feeling of being represented and seen was a huge thing for me as a child, and still is to this day. Unfortunately, the feeling of being represented and seen in my classrooms didn’t really happen that often. As a kid, I vowed that when I had my own classroom one day, I would make it a classroom that was inclusive and all about diversity.
When people (specifically referring to kids) feel like they are being seen, heard, and represented, it can help make them feel valued, loved, and accepted. Lisa M. López and Mariela Páez stated that “Children are better able to learn when the classroom climate is positive, warm, and inviting. Part of being welcomed is seeing your own language and culture reflected throughout all aspects of the classroom.” Can you imagine how impactful it is for a student to feel seen and represented in your classroom? And how that could impact their learning and how they feel in your classroom? Being inclusive is all about being open and accepting of other cultures (all aspects of it), displaying people from different cultures around your classroom (through pictures, books, what you teach, etc.), and teaching about the importance of being inclusive and diversified and what that means.
One of the ways that I vowed to show diversity and inclusion in my classroom was by having images on my walls of different famous figures of all cultures/races/ethnicities/religions, along with books that have characters of those different diverse areas. I also found it important for my chapter and picture books to discuss diverse themes and discuss those together as a class. Themes such as adoption, divorce, immigration, death of loved ones — there are children in our class who are dealing with such things at home in their personal life. By bringing light to these topics, these children feel seen and heard, and they know that I am there for them, no matter what they are going through.
Diversity doesn’t only mean being inclusive of other races/ethnicities/religions, it also means being inclusive about others’ languages. I have the word “family” in sign language in my classroom, and I am in the process of adding other languages of words throughout my classroom. There are kids who may speak a different language at home and seeing their home language represented in the classroom could be a huge deal for them.
I am trying to be the change and trying to be the type of inclusive and diverse teacher that I so wished for (and needed) growing up. It’s so important to me that ALL of my children in the classroom feel welcome in my classroom, that they matter and are loved, and the diversity each of them brings adds value to our classroom family. Being able to see and feel that inclusion is so vital to helping our students, both socially, emotionally, and academically.
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